The 76ers are looking to fine-tune for the playoffs and Wednesday the starters returned against the Toronto Raptors.
Both teams, with just one seeding game left, were looking to get into a postseason groove.
Here are observations of the game.
Rough time for Embiid: Joel Embiid returned after missing Tuesday’s 130-117 loss to Portland with a twisted left ankle and he was against the center who defends him as well as anybody, Marc Gasol.
In the first half Embiid banged his right hand against Gasol and it seemed to be hurting him.
Embiid played after that, but struggled.
Embiid had one great post-up on Gasol when he made a jump hook, but other than that, he was frustrated, committing five turnovers.
Gasol is one of the few NBA players who can match Embiid’s strength and he did a good job frustrating the Sixers three-time all-star.
Great D by Horford: Al Horford has been playing solid all-around game during the NBA restart and it again happened on both ends of the court against the Raptors.
Horford had the difficult assignment of guarding all-star Pascal Siakam. Knowing that Siakam has struggled during the restart from the perimeter, Horford played off him and didn’t allow him to get favorable post-ups.
Horford made Siakam work for everything. In addition, Horford has continued to shoot well from three-point range in the NBA restart, but his biggest contribution could be on the defensive end.
Siakam had some second half success but Horford saw limited time and after halftime.
Assist of the game: No doubt this pass by Kyle Lowery through the legs of Shake Millton to Siakam was the assist of the game, a true nutmeg.
Surprising intensity: The game meant nothing to both teams since Toronto has already clinched the No. 2 seed and the Sixers knew before the game that they would be the No. 6 seed after Indiana defeated Houston. Both teams were playing with high intensity.
Raptors point guard and local Philadelphia product Kyle Lowry was so intense, he earned three personal fouls in the first quarter. He still played in the second quarter and didn’t lose his aggressiveness, with 18 second quarter points.
The Sixers no doubt were taking this game seriously, knowing there is just one more before the playoffs and looking to get into postseason form.
Toronto was also playing hard.
Harris taking advantage of his size: At 6-foot-8, Tobias Harris has the size to shoot over defenders, especially when playing small forward. What Harris has done well is make teams pay when a smaller defender is on him. That was the case in the first quarter when 6-3 Normal Powell switched on Harris.
Harris just used the combination of his power and quickness. It wasn’t a pure post-up, but he easily got by Powell and made the short shot
Thybulle on D: After having a tough time defending against Devin Booker on Tuesday, Matisse Thybulle was paired for long stretches in the second quarter on Lowry. The veteran Raptors point guard was beating Thybulle off the dribble consistently. Below is an example.
Lowry scored on a variety of defenders in that second quarter, but Thybulle was one of them who had no answer.
Neto big again: For the second straight night Raul Neto enjoyed a strong game. Brett Brown has indicated that Neto likely won’t be in the rotation, but one has to wonder if his recent play can earn some point guard minutes off the bench.
Neto made one of the game’s best two-way plays.
After blocking Lowry’s shot he ran the court and was rewarded by making a step-back three.
Was this traveling? Lowry ended the half with a great length of the court drive.